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No Putin on the Ritz
Israel - Middle East
Thursday, August 15, 2013
Alf Cengia

One of my favorite scary guys has been in the news again.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has invited newly elected Iranian President Rouhani in September for a little get together. But, no, it's not in cozy Moscow for a tête-à-tête over a glass or two of vodka. Putin isn't putting on the Ritz. The conference is in breezy Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. It just rolls off the tongue doesn't it? You may have thought that Kazakhstan was a mouthful.

According to Wiki:

"Landlocked and mountainous, Kyrgyzstan is bordered by Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the west, Tajikistan to the southwest and China to the east. Its capital and largest city is Bishkek."

As a general note: Former Soviet Socialist Republic Kyrgyzstan's population is 5,548,042 of which 75% is Muslim and 20% is Russian Orthodox with 5% other ~ C.IA. World Factbook

I don't know what you do with that information, but the "landlocked and mountainous" features sound like that perfect setting for Putin to flex those infamous pectorals at Rouhani. You know - just to make sure Rouhani knows who the boss is? Who knows?

Whatever the case, Putin appears to be agreeable to occasionally "roughing it up", as we often say in Australia. I hope Rouhani appreciates the old former Soviet scenery.

Rouhani is seen as being far more moderate than the apocalyptic Ahmadinejad. At least, that's the message the ever hopeful media is keen to deliver. One of these perpetual optimists is Professor Kaveh Afrasiabi who writes that Rouhani's appointment is well received "not only by the 55 foreign dignitaries, including 10 presidents, but also by the White House." He adds that:

"By all indications, the stage is now fully set for an auspicious chapter in nuclear negotiations, assuming that the US Congress will not torpedo it with tough action, such as new sanctions pending approval."

I've never understood the sanctions logic - but I tend to be a bit slow. How can the removal of sanctions prevent something that Iran has always intended to do, and is going to do? What came first - Iran's decision to develop nuclear weapons, or did they decide to do that because of the sanctions? So, when the sanctions ease up, they'll play ball?

Afrasiabi insists that the Iranian nuclear decision-making process is undergoing "institutional changes" under the former Iranian nuclear negotiator's leadership. Presumably, Rouhani is removing the decision making focus away from the Supreme National Security Council and steering into the hands of presidency and the foreign ministry. I guess the latter must be the good moderate guys who don't want to develop nuclear weapons and blow up Israel.

Another writer for Asia Times drops a tiny fly in the ointment of Utopian optimism. Mind you, Hamza Mannan is an optimist; yet he rightly points out that Rouhani is officially endorsed by Supreme Leader of Iran Ayatollah Khamenei. His landslide election followed the "disqualification of the majority of candidates by the Guardian Council, including former president Akbar Rafsanjani." In other words he was positioned there.

The reality is that nominations by Rouhani into cabinet ministries are vetted by the Ayatollah. He's still the boss. Even so, Mannan entertains the irrepressible optimism that Khamenei tenure aspirations may be agreeable to a change of heart, given the current Arab protests in the region.

That's a nice reassuring thought. Would that work something like Assad's or Morsi's recent change of heart? Perhaps Khamenei, Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, the Palestinian Authority and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood can all get together to press the reset button.

But let's get back to Putin's meeting. I'd love to be a fly on the wall in Bishkek.

I'm reminded of when I worked for a nationwide sales and manufacturing corporation. Whenever a major customer employed a new buyer or sales manager, our sales people would visit them to make sure our relationship was still mutually beneficial. Most times it involved wining and dining to feel the other person out. Sometimes it didn't involve an elaborate dinner but a gentle reminder of pre-existing contractual obligations.

Russia has had long-term economic connections with Iran and Syria. Putin may even have Khamenei's blessing to make sure Rouhani gets that message - just in case he hasn't yet. I confess to having a rather fertile imagination; I can conjure up the possibility of Putin asking Rouhani a menacing, "Are we clear?"

Tough-guy Putin recently went out of his way to show that, behind those daunting pectorals, there beats a tender heart. He stated that:

"...in many of the world's regions, especially in the Middle East and in North Africa inter-confessional tensions are mounting, and the rights of religious minorities are infringed, including Christians and Orthodox Christians. This pressing problem should be a subject of close attention for the entire international community."

Of course, that address was delivered during a meeting with Orthodox Christian leaders in Moscow. He was essentially preaching to the choir and trying to shore up positive Public Relations from the Russian populace. Am I being cynical again?

Putin's sentiments would have been more impressive had they been delivered to the leaders of the regimes who are perpetrating the atrocities in those countries. But that's not a great business move when some of your customers are among the offenders.

Finally, in June, John Bolton noted that Russia has outmaneuvered the Obama administration in Syria. He noted that:

"..Russia last month reaffirmed its commitment to deliver sophisticated S-300 air-defense missile systems to Assad. Although Israeli leaders have played down the sale's significance, this combination of advanced radars and missiles, which can defeat any non-stealthy aircraft (and Israel does not now have stealth planes), could change the strategic balance in Syria as well as in Lebanon and Iran—to Israel's detriment and ours." (Emphasis mine)

And that still seems to be the status quo according to Iranian Press TV:

"Russia has refused to halt military and other cooperation with the Damascus government throughout the Syria conflict.... Russia and Syria are discussing the possibility of Moscow extending a loan to Damascus."

It would appear that the noose is tightening around Israel.

And Gog...er, Putin is in the thick of it!

About Alf Cengia

Last week: On Dead Terrorists & Legitimate Islamists

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